Good Fruit Grower

August 1

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Page 44 of 63 Good Fruit Grower AUGUST 2015 45 as apples have several attributes that align with today's consumer preferences. They are a healthy and nutritious snack that can help fight obesity, and they come in a wider range of varieties than ever before, with new tastes and textures. He thinks a joint effort to promote Washington apples could have some impact, but he doubts there's a will to do it. "We need one organization that's focused on building demand in the domestic market, but I don't see our industry moving in that direction," he said. "They seem to be moving away from that. When we had 4,000 growers, I think the industry was more focused on the group because we were very diversified. "But it seems to me that the trend is towards consolidation, and that doesn't necessarily support group effort," he said. "It seems like the more control these larger shippers have, the more concentration they have on their own brand, and I can't argue with that from an individual shipper viewpoint." A voluntary promotion program to boost apple consumption could only be successful if most of the Washington marketers participated, he believes. Brand But Fryhover agrees that without a renewed promotion effort the Washington brand will be forgotten. "The work that's been done to build the brand in the past has maintained awareness over the years since 2003, but every year we're not supporting that through some sort of activity, we're eroding that brand and it will eventually disappear," he said. "When people think about apples in the U.S., generally they think about Washington, but there's a new generation of consumers and they don't know us." Several years ago, a survey of shippers showed that 60 to 70 percent were using the Washington apple logo on their apple stickers. Fryhover thinks the percentage is probably slipping as packers use the limited space on the stickers to promote their own exclusive varieties. Randy Steensma, general manager of Honey Bear Tree Fruit Company, Wenatchee, said he supports the idea of a Washington promotion program. "Buyers look to Washington for Washington apples," he said. "They don't look to Washington for a private label. With that dominance of the Washington theme, it would make sense to promote that Washington theme again and promote that the best apples in the world are grown in Washington." However, Steensma said many shippers have merchandising teams out visiting retailers to promote their own labels, and he does not see that ending. "Would you do both?" he wondered. "Would you still provide your own label and hit the Washington theme that still resonates with people?" He thinks marketers would be reluctant to go back to a 25-cents-per box assessment, because they probably think they can use that money more effectively in house, but they might support a reduced assessment of, say, 3 to 5 cents a box, which would generate $4.5 to $7.5 million on a 150-million box crop. Buy local Dain Craver, an organic grower at Royal City, said he was opposed to ending the Washington Apple Commission's domestic program but is not sure now if it should be reinstated. "I could see that a broker would want to bring them back in because he doesn't have the money to promote apples, whereas the marketing companies, they're putting their own money into advertising," he said. "As we've gotten into this for the past few years, actually I think the marketing agencies are doing a pretty good job. In retrospect, I don't know if it would be a good idea any more with everyone wanting to buy local—that's one of the trends. If you're promoting the Washington apple, the people on the East Coast may not find that attractive." When Red Delicious was the No. 1 apple variety, Washington could claim to be the best place on earth to grow the variety, but that's not necessarily so with the newer varieties. "I love the Washington logo," Craver said. "I still have stickers all over the place. But from the marketing end, I don't know if it would help or hurt us." •

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